Georgia

ISFED Issues Final Report of 2017 Local Self-Government Elections

On March 19, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) presented the final report of monitoring of the 2017 local self-government elections. The report covers ISFED’s key findings and trends of the pre-election, Election Day and post-election periods. The report also assesses the work of election administration and other key actors of the electoral process. Besides, ISFED presented the recommendations on the improvement of electoral system, legal framework and overall election environment.

ISFED recommends that Parliament should start consideration of reforming the local self-government electoral system for which an inclusive working group should be set up and composed of MPs as well as representatives of civil society and other stakeholders.

According to ISFED, the rule of composition of the election administration at all levels should be revised. In the long-term perspective, for transforming the election administration into a qualified and unbiased body, it is important that preference is given to the composition of administration by professional members. In the short-term perspective, if the party representation is maintained, preference should be given to the rule of composition of the election administration that ensures balanced political representation. At the same time, ISFED suggests reducing the number of commission members while the members of precinct commissions should be required to have a certificate.

It is important to revise norms that regulate election disputes in the Election Code and clear any ambiguities in order to rule out inaccurate and inconsistent application of these norms in the future by election commissions.

Regarding complaints, ISFED calls on the election administration to avoid the practice of narrow and verbatim interpretation of the law and to act in compliance with the spirit of the law and relevant provisions. ISFED recommends that all levels of the election administration should take adequate legal actions against illegal campaigning by civil servants. The Central Election Commission (CEC) and District Election Commissions (DEC) should take clear actions in response to instances of conflicts of interest involving election commission members and should ensure that such cases are proactively identified and immediately eliminated.

The recommendations also apply to the High Council of Justice. ISFED considers that in view of the tight timeframe prescribed for electoral disputes, a simplified form should be developed for filing a complaint before court. Besides, it is of high importance to better prepare judges for handling the election disputes.

Key Findings

ISFED found number of irregularities in the work of the election administration during the 2017 Local Self-Government Elections. Cases of conflicts of interest of commissioners stood out among challenges, but were not adequately addressed by the CEC. Furthermore, during the complaints process, the CEC and district-level commissions failed to adequately respond to acts of illegal campaigning by civil servants on social media, in violation of requirements of the Election Code. Instances of narrow interpretation of the electoral legislation were problematic, which leads to ignoring of requirements of the law and encourages future violations. Composition of precinct election commissions (PECs) continued to have shortcomings and was insufficiently transparent.

The key tendencies during the pre-election period included: significant increase of instances of intimidation and harassment mostly against opposition candidates or activists especially closer to the Election Day; disinformation campaign in social media through sponsored content; the ruling party’s dominant position with regard to party finances; scaling up of social and infrastructural project spending in local budgets several months prior to the elections.

ISFED observers filed 325 complaints in district and precinct level commissions over irregularities identified during the first and the second round of the elections. Most of the irregularities were the result of lack of professionalism and qualification of election commission members, especially with regard to drawing up of summary protocols. During the consideration of complaints, election commissions avoided adequate examination of election documentation, revision of results and made decisions solely based on explanatory notes of commission members. DECs often misused and misinterpreted the timeframe for lodging complaints and they did not understand the substance and purpose of applicable procedures prescribed by the legislation. They avoided the use of administrative or disciplinary penalties, failed to adequately react on violation of observer’s rights and made ill-founded decisions.

ISFED monitored the pre-election period, Election Day, the runoffs and the post-election period of the local self-government elections nationwide with a large-scale monitoring mission and 1,299 accredited observers.

Please see the whole report below:

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